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Marine Science


EU project to reduce pollutant mercury in oceans

EU project to reduce pollutant mercury in oceans

MER-CLUB is an innovative EU-funded project aiming to deliver a mercury clean-up system based on microbial bioremediation – in other words, using marine bacteria to get rid of pollutant mercury in the sea.

Pollution of marine waters by mercury is a critical problem worldwide, with major impacts not just on the environment, but also on human health. Decades of industrial activity, mining and fossil fuel combustion have led to large emissions of this heavy metal into the marine environment. Today’s surface marine waters contain three times as much mercury as they should.

Using recent advances in environmental genomics, cell sorting and mercury tracing, MER-CLUB will first identify the microorganisms that have the potential for mercury bioremediation. Then it will test their performance in a special clean-up system, based on immobilized bacteria able to operate in dredged marine sediments. That system will afterwards serve as a proof of concept for further development and, hopefully, commercial implementation.

MER-CLUB will carry out its actions in sediments from the Baltic, Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Already within the first five years, the consortium of six international research groups and one company is expected to lead to:

  • a patented system and a marketable product
  • redesign and optimization of the pilot plant to make it economically viable, and the industrial upscaling of the clean-up system
  • affordable technology for ex situ decontamination of marine sediments

In the long-term, MER-CLUB hopes to develop a full-fledged, eco-friendly in situ bioremediation procedure. This would avoid the large costs involved in dredging the sediments and allowing the ecological restoration of large locations for human activities.

A EU statement said: “As we are almost going live with the much-anticipated new EU approach to a sustainable blue economy, MER-CLUB is a prime example of how the blue economy can provide innovative solutions and help the EU reach its Green Deal objectives, including biodiversity restoration and zero pollution.”